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The 7 Best Practices for Optimizing Power BI Dataflows

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

How to Harness the low-code experience of Power Query as a citizen developer or data professionally optimizing your ETL processes.

Power BI dataflows are a self-service Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) feature that allows users to ingest, transform, and integrate data from various sources into a unified, ready-to-use format. This powerful feature promotes efficiency, consistency, and accuracy in your data analysis processes.

To ensure the optimal usage of dataflows, here are some of the best practices to follow.

1. Leverage the Power of Self-Service ETL

Power BI dataflows democratize data preparation by enabling analysts and business users to prepare and clean data without relying on IT or data professionals. As a best practice, leverage this self-service ETL capability to empower users to build their own dataflows, reducing the load on your IT team and fostering a data-driven culture within your organization.

Essentially you can do complex transformations of your data without needing to know a coding language. The Power Query language M is a function language that is well documented online, but knowing M is not necessary to succeed with Power Query and dataflows.

2. Use Power Query for Data Transformation

Dataflows utilize Power Query, a data connection technology that allows you to perform data transformation tasks, like filtering, merging, and cleansing data. Power Query is an intuitive, user-friendly tool that employs a graphical interface and Excel-like functions, enabling non-technical users to transform data effectively.

3. Optimize for Performance

When creating dataflows, pay attention to performance. Avoid unnecessary transformations that could slow down your dataflows. Ensure computed entities and folding techniques where applicable to enhance performance. Also, try to limit the number of rows in your entities and implement incremental refresh policies to improve dataflow efficiency.

As a reminder, there are icons that indicate if your query is folding or not. You can see what those icons mean here: Step Folding Indicators and Query Plan for Power Query Online | Microsoft Power Query

4. Manage Dataflow Refreshes

Managing refreshes is a crucial aspect of using dataflows effectively. Dataflows should be refreshed as frequently as necessary to ensure that your reports and dashboards are up to date. Use Power BI's built-in scheduling feature to automate dataflow refreshes, saving time and ensuring consistency.

You can use incremental refresh in dataflows if you have a Premium Per User or Premium Capacity license. Remember to only set up incremental refresh in a single part of your data lineage. You do NOT want to have an incremental refresh in a dataflow and in a dataset that is connected to that dataflow.

5. Leverage Linked and Computed Entities

Linked entities allow you to use entities from other dataflows without duplicating data, while computed entities enable you to create new entities based on existing ones. These features enhance the reusability of data and reduce redundancy, contributing to more efficient and manageable dataflows. Note that you will need a Premium license to use linked and computed entities.

6. Ensure Adequate Security Measures

Dataflows should be as secure as any other component of your Power BI deployment. Always follow best practices for data security, including assigning appropriate permissions, implementing row-level security where necessary, and regularly reviewing access logs.

7. Document and Maintain Your Dataflows

Ensure to document the logic and transformations used in your dataflows for future reference and troubleshooting. Regular maintenance of your dataflows, including checking for errors, updating transformations, and deleting unnecessary entities, can keep your dataflows optimized and efficient.

You can easily download the JSON file that is your dataflow and save it to a secure location in case you need to restore a deleted or modified dataflow. You can also connect your Power BI workspace to Azure blob storage and it will automatically backup your dataflows though it does require a Power BI Premium license.

Ready to Elevate Your Data?

By following these best practices, you will get the most out of your Power BI dataflows, leading to more efficient, insightful, and accurate data analysis.

Contact a solutions specialist today for help turning your data into gold.


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